Jessica Tsai writes wonderfully (as always) at DestinationCRM about the results of a survey done by the Effectiveness Solutions Research (ESR) Group that tries to (and I really mean "tries to" not "succeeds at") look at effect of the use of new social media tools" on B2B sales.
What's bothers me here isn't the results of the survey but the survey itself. This is a flawed survey when it comes to the definition of what constitutes social media and the questions that it asks.
First, identified as social media tools are:
They also merge two traditional services Hoovers and OneSource as a counterbalance I presume. Though why they thought it necessary to pick two and merge them rather than choose just one or use both separately, I don't know. At least they got Hoovers and OneSource right as a service.
But that's the least of the issues. Here are the problems:
- Twitter, Plaxo, Facebook, and LinkedIn are not social media "tools" especially not sales tools. Twitter is a channel/network and the other three are social networks. Calling them tools is a disservice to readers and to the networks themselves (and their members).
- As Denis Pombriant said in a great post on "The New, New Economy" in CRMBuyer: "I got an email this morning about a new analyst report purporting to show that social media is not helping to close many deals. Here's a news flash: It's not supposed to be a closing tool. Social media is an opening tool, a way to keep lines of communication open and maybe even keep pipelines full. It might even help reduce the sales cycle." Oh, do I ever concur.
- With all these things as problems to begin with, their projections are somewhere between so what and thanks for nothing and huh? For example, "Twitter is an anomaly...ESR has found that for the near term, within corporations, marketing personnel will find the tool much more valuable than their counterparts in sales. Presently it is not a valuable mainstream prospecting or relationship building medium for most B2B salespeople. This one is on the order of "what else is new?" Or that Facebook. at least for now is better for personal and family matters, rather than sales. Okay......and....?
- They have a chart titled "Do These Tools Help You Win B2B Sales?" with the aforementioned channels and social networks as the tools. The answers are pretty much "no" with LinkedIn mentioned as helpful by 35%. These aren't the tools a sales person would use to close business. Because they aren't tools and social networks aren't used to close business.
These are social networks/channels. They function the same way that all communities function. There are interactions among the participants who directly or indirectly have a relationship with each other and are there for a common reason or practice or event. Their raison d'etre has little to do with closing B2B deals, just because there are corporate representatives there. Calling them tools is like calling Los Angeles a "tool." There may be a few tools who live in Los Angeles (mostly around Hollywood Hills) but the city itself isn't a tool.
Worst of all, with its purported purpose, this survey ignores the actual tools that are being put forth by companies like Oracle with their Enterprise 2.0 sales products that they call Social CRM; or by companies like InsideView which actually have a tool to find out sales intelligence which might actually provide an edge that would benefit someone closing a deal in a B2B environment.
When it comes to social networks and channels re: sales, there is some value, due to reputation and influence garnered when participating in the social networks including those identified above, but not to close deals. Their value is in developing the kinds of relationships that serve you over time, if you're a sales person, in pursuing opportunities and finding leads and developing the kind of sales intelligence that provides you with the insight in making your job easier and better.
One last thing.
According to DestinationCRM, Dave Stein ESR Group's CEO said the following:
"What social media should not be doing...is taking the place of investments in core sales methodology-that is, people, infrastructure, tool, processes, supporting technology, education, and training. All of these things are expensive, they take time, focus, but that's what works, that's what helps companies be effective from a selling perspective... "We're concerned about the distraction factor more than anything else."
While its hard to argue against the basic practices of sales, its also limited to think that they are the reason that things work. This isn't the same as the era that existed years ago. The ascendancy of the web changed the nature of competition because not only are the products and services that a company provides - in either a B2C or B2B environment easily available elsewhere, but sales people have to compete with all the noise out there - the 3000 messages a day that we all are subjected to - or assaulted by -depending on the day. That means that using things like social media tools (actual social media tools) aren't a distraction. They are useful additions to a sales arsenal and they are here to stay also. As are the social networks and channels that are so wildly popular. The idea would be to integrate them into the thinking because the potential customers are using them to communicate with peers about the companies that have the sales people.
Ahh. Look. Here's a presentation on social sales and how to think the use of actual tools in the sales environment and the value of social networks and channels - as distinct from social media tools like blogs, wikis, user generated content They would help in enhancing lead generation, opening up opportunities in a B2B environment. There is some things that can be done for closing but remember what Denis said above.
I'm going to not use this research, not because of the conclusion which may or may not be the case, but because it just asks the wrong questions and starts from the wrong premise and defines things incorrectly too.
Here's the presentation: